Routes into journalism
With digital technology transforming the media landscape, it's now harder than ever to define a traditional route into the journalism industry.
However, demand remains for skilled, passionate and creative journalists who seek out and craft stories that resonate with audiences. Here are five practical steps aspiring journalists can take to prepare for a career in the media.
Obvious as it seems, clear written communication is essential for any journalist. The greater your ability to write clearly and concisely, the more attractive a prospect you will be.
Common advice for clear writing includes:
- using short sentences
- using active rather than passive voice
- eliminating redundant words
- never using a complex word where a simple word will do
More detail is available in the wide range of writing guides and handbooks found online and in bookshops. Strunk & White’s classic The Elements of Style is a popular mainstay, as is the Associated Press Stylebook. The likes of BBC News and the Guardian also publish style guides showing what's expected at widely-read publications.
Writing is like any skill – it requires regular practice. Write regularly on diverse subject matter with the above guidelines in mind and clear, crisp writing will become second nature.
Decide what area of journalism you would like to work in. Different types of journalist include:
- Reporters are responsible for sourcing and writing the latest stories for newspapers, television, radio and online publications
- Feature writers focus on longer, in-depth pieces that are less time-sensitive
- Correspondents have a specific beat, such as a geographical location or specialist area. Generally based away from the newsroom
- Investigative journalists undertake in-depth, long-term reporting into matters of public interest that are hidden from the public eye
- Multimedia journalists use more than one medium - from text, images, audio, and video - to report and present news stories in a compelling manner
The boundaries between each type are not always rigid. But deciding what type of journalism you are passionate about and which writers you admire will stand you in good stead when honing your craft.
A good writer needs to be a good reader. Keeping up-to-date with the media outlets you'd like to work for will give you an understanding of the types of story they favour.
Study the subject matter and format of stories produced by a range of publications. Think about the research and contacts the journalist would have cultivated when working on a given story.
Social media is another great way to get an insight into a journalist’s day-to-day. Many journalists are highly active on Twitter, which has become a useful resource for research, building contacts and publicising stories. Follow the output of journalists across the spectrum and become more familiar with their respective beats.
Study the subject matter and format of stories produced by a range of publications.
A degree in journalism gives you a solid grounding in fundamental principles of the profession. A good course offers invaluable instruction on:
- writing (style, tone, formatting and structure)
- reporting (news-gathering, interviewing and managing sources)
- technology (mobile media, recorders, editing software)
Employers appreciate the vast on-the-job experience journalism graduates bring to the table. Many university and college degree programmes offer a simulated news environment and the opportunity to work on real-world news and features as part of assessment. This gives graduates plenty of material to add to a portfolio as evidence of their skills, experience, style and interests.
The comprehensive training graduates receive in journalistic ethics and legal responsibilities is also important. These are 'must-haves' for those entering a newsroom.
Examples of writing and reporting are the best way to show employers what you can do.
Platforms like Medium and Substack make it easy to publish and showcase writing. Whether your aim is to develop an audience or not, practicing journalistic writing on a regular basis is extremely important in helping aspiring media professionals develop their voice.
Another way to gain experience is by finding online publications seeking contributors. As well as allowing you to bolster your CV and portfolio, you'll gain experience of pitching stories and ideas – another invaluable tool in a journalist’s repertoire.
Try searching online or reaching out to media outlets to enquire about work experience, internships or shadowing opportunities. This will allow you to learn the ropes, add to your CV, make connections and discover if a media career is for you.
Note: the National Union of Journalism has published guidance on the distinction between valuable work experience opportunities and exploitation of internships.
Our undergraduate and postgraduate programmes give aspiring journalists the opportunity to work with internationally-renowned experts in media theory and practice. We are proud to have been named 3rd in the UK for Communication & Media Studies (Complete University Guide 2023).
BA Journalism Media & Communication
Gain a critical understanding of the media industry, while acquiring technical and professional skills in journalism, communication, information design and management, and using them in Glasgow’s dynamic media market (and beyond). It can be studied alongside other subjects as part of the flexible BA degree.
MLitt Digital Journalism
The Digital Journalism Masters gives you access to the training, equipment and software required to prepare for working in a profoundly-changing media environment. Working in the University’s simulated news environment, you will report externally using mobile media, digital recorders and cameras. You will also have access to industry standard audio and video editing software while devising, launching, producing and marketing an online publication.
MLitt Media & Communication
The Media & Communication Masters draws on the expertise of Strathclyde’s academic staff in strategic communication, media and communication theory, media ethics and mediated populism. You will study dominant media and communication theories in a number of international contexts, gain insight into the principles of strategic communication, and examine the relationship between interpersonal media, mass media and social media.